One of the best ways to motivate students is to give them some well-chosen words of encouragement or advice. Many of the world’s greatest creative minds and high achievers have offered insights into what led them to succeed, or into what makes each one of us special, and these can resonate with students who are struggling for inspiration.
Display a few of the following quotes in prominent places around the classroom, or write a new one on the whiteboard each day, and you’ll be well on your way to having a more positive learning environment. Take time to discuss what they might really mean to young people, and never forget to add your own words of encouragement too.
For students who have wondered about the purpose of schooling, try this quote from Helen Keller: “The highest result of education is tolerance.” Each child wants to feel appreciated and valued for who they are, and here is a message about accepting others with the same open-mindedness. If fear comes from those things we do not understand, then empathy and love might spring from learning about them.
Aristotle also has useful advice for students who have not seen the worth in what they are doing. “The roots of education are bitter,” he says, “but the fruit is sweet.” The implication is that, yes, school can be a royal pain at times, but what it offers for the future is well worth any temporary hardship or boredom.
Another worthwhile quote from Aristotle is that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” Here, he is suggesting that good work practices define what each student may ultimately achieve. If the teacher wishes to introduce Art Costa’s sixteen ‘Habits of Mind’ to a group of students, this quote can serve as a useful way of establishing their purpose.
Having a positive outlook is essential if a student wants to achieve, and there are several great quotes which can encourage students to see education in a brighter light. “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, while Thomas Edison suggested that “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” According to Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Sometimes, success comes not from trying harder, but in approaching a task with the positive belief that it is worth getting right.
A fear of failure is a common reason for students to lose motivation, and unfortunately, the current emphasis on tests and scores tends to exacerbate this. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt says, “What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?” The secret is to set aside notions of failure, and instead regard each effort as one step closer to achieving a desirable outcome.
Basketball great, Michael Jordan, perhaps said it best when he explained how failure was his inspiration for greater success. According to Jordan, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Failure in a single test does not mean the end of achievement, but is instead a lesson in its own right.
Finally, a quote from Abraham Maslow which explains to students that everything they do well has value, and that there are a hundred ways to succeed: “A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.” It’s a curious quote, but one worth thinking about. Maslow’s message is simple: whatever it is you are good at, do that thing to the very best of your ability.
The words of wisdom presented here are just a small sample of the motivational quotes that might inspire students to greater achievement. Thousands more are available online at sites like brainyquote and goodreads, and although each teacher will no doubt wish to choose the ones that mean the most to his or her class, there are certainly enough to last throughout an entire school year.